Archdiocese settles clergy sexual abuse case

Jon Jaker, center
Jon Jaker, center, his mother Yvonne Jaker, left, and attorney Patrick Noaker, right.
Peter Cox/MPR News

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis reached a clergy sex abuse settlement Wednesday in a case that's decades old.

Jon Jaker, who is now 54, says he was sexually abused when he was 11 by the late Rev. Tom Stitts. At the time, Jaker was an altar boy at St. Leo's Catholic Church in St. Paul.

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That was in 1971. "And at 11, I was terrified. I'm not terrified anymore. I'm not afraid," Jaker said. "I'm a survivor. And today we won a little bit back."

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The financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed by either side. It is the archdiocese's first settlement reached under the Minnesota Child Victims Act, which allows child sex abuse victims who are now over 24 three years to file civil suits.

"The Child Victims Act has opened the door for many people to come forward and tell their stories," said Jaker's attorney, Patrick Noaker. "They're very unfortunate stories, like Jon's, but they needed told."

Stitts died in 1985 at the age of 50. More than a dozen people have accused Stitts of sexually abusing them as children in the 1960s and 1970s. He served churches in St. Paul, Edina, Hastings, Long Lake and New Brighton.

The archdiocese denied knowing of Stitts' abuse until years later. Jaker's mother, Yvonne, said Wednesday she spoke with archdiocese's chancery soon after she learned of the abuse and was told the church did not handle such complaints.

Bishop Andrew Cozzens said the settlement will be paid with several sources, including insurance.

"The vicar general, Father Lachowitzer, was present at the negotiations of the settlement and was able to hear the victim's story and to apologize on behalf of the archdiocese," Cozzens said. "And that was an important aspect of this settlement. And we regret that it took so long for the victim's story to be heard."